What can B2B learn from consumer brands’ use of ad music?
Reflecting on ads gone by from Cadbury, Guinness, and Southern Comfort, Jack Stacey of Earnest addresses B2B’s elephant in the room: elevator music (and how to fix it).
Audiences are more bored than ever; be bolder with your music choices, says Earnest's Jack Stacey. / Daniel Schludi
Let’s talk about music. Or more appropriately, let’s talk about music in B2B (boo).
B2B marketing has a real imagination problem when it comes to music and video. Think about the last corporate video you saw. Maybe it was the tech explainer, complete with bubbly synths, warm pads and various boops and beeps from an arpeggiator.
Or it could have been the project management software one that had the clean drum loop, the sparkling glockenspiel, the energetic piano and ukulele combo, and maybe even a giddy, whistled melody thrown in for good measure.
Perhaps it was the ESG awareness reel, with a noodling acoustic guitar, a friendly four-four rock beat and a rising string quartet that builds and builds until it drops off into a chord that fades as the company’s logo appears.
The point of these examples is to show that many of your competitors are using the exact same music as each other for their videos – music that is safe, clean and as inoffensive as possible. Music that is 21st-century muzak, the most heinous of genres. Elevator tunes to fill the silence.
Why music matters
Music is one of the quickest, easiest and most surprisingly enjoyable ways to differentiate your videos from everyone else. Think about the B2C adverts that have been entirely elevated by their music, or more importantly, think about how inefficient they would have been without the music they chose.
There’s Cadbury’s Gorilla, of course, that firmly imprinted Dairy Milk in the minds of generations of adults and children with Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight. Or the fantastic Southern Comfort beach stroll, backed by Odetta’s Hit or Miss that was parodied over and over to great effect (thanks to its killer soundtrack).
And then there was the Guinness one which introduced millions to the magic of mambo back in 1995 with the pairing of settled stout with Guaglione by Perez Prado.
The point is that, with these adverts and videos, the music is what makes them. It makes people perk up and listen because it’s something different, something catchy or something they just weren’t expecting.
Sure, they just happen to have great creative concepts behind them, but with a less inspired backing track – say, something everyone already knew and expected – you lose so much of what makes them special.
To understand how we can make music better in B2B, we need to look at the two things stopping clients from going with bolder music choices.
Unlike B2C, B2B likes to play it clean and secure because it thinks that’s what the B2B crowd likes. B2B is the corporate safe space where there are no surprises, no loud noises, and certainly no guitar solos.
But this plainly isn’t true. Audiences, including B2B buyers, are more bored than ever, and going for more exciting music for your videos is one of the simplest ways to mix things up.
Everyone loves music, and no one is going to be offended if you go for something just a little bit more daring – in fact, they might even enjoy it.
Music costs money. A song on an advert can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000 a year, depending on the artist and the song itself. That’s a lot of money for not necessarily the best returns – especially for a smaller B2B audience.
But improving music in B2B isn’t about familiarity, it’s about being different. You don’t need to license Take On Me or Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger for your videos. You could look to smaller, independent artists who charge less for their music. You get something no one has heard before for less – and you’re supporting new talent.
You could stick with stock music, but just choose a different style or genre to what your audience would expect, like 80s’ hair metal for your tech demo… for example. Or, you could wait for a famous piece of classical music to come into the public domain and surprise your audience with lesser-known gems, like Ravel’s Piano Concerto.
Your audience is waiting
There are so many options, so many opportunities to surprise (and delight) your viewers with off-the-beaten-track music that they aren’t expecting – and you’ve got centuries of it to choose from.
Time to hit play.
Content by The Drum Network member:
Earnest is the award-winning B2B marketing agency that’s chasing out the humdrum in London and New York.
Why is B2B treated like the poor cousin to B2C? Business people are still people, after all – they just happen to be at work.
Since we opened for business in 2009, we’ve built brands, shaped strategies, produced content programmes, created experiences and developed campaigns that not only deliver results, but engage and delight their audiences too.
B2B marketing is tough. There are hard-to-reach audiences. Difficult-to-please internal stakeholders. And very often complex, intangible products.
That’s why B2B deserves just as much attention, passion and intellectual energy as B2C. And it’s why Earnest is on a mission to raise standards in B2B, creatively and strategically. Chasing out the humdrum, and ushering in the unexpected.
We positively relish the unique challenges that B2B marketing presents. Since we started the agency in 2009, we’ve earned a reputation for devising solutions that go beyond the obvious, often delivering far more than the client’s original objectives.
The agency offers an unusually broad mix of disciplines – including branding, campaigns, strategic planning, content, and experiential – and we’ve won awards for them all. That’s testament to the fact that we approach every challenge, of every size and every shape, in the same way – with high standards and open minds.